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When you announced your retirement, you made “Dear Basketball” as an open letter to the game that you loved and what made you the person that you are. It’s only fitting that I try and do an open letter as well but this time addressed to you because without you, Kobe, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.

I’m holding back tears as I write this because I’m hoping that making something like this can help me find some sort of solace about everything that’s happened.

I’m not overly concerned about writing this thing properly. It’s so hard to put into words what I’m feeling right now because of how overwhelming this feels so I just want to write something that’s coming straight from the heart and man, my heart is still hurting.

It hurts seeing players and coaches you’ve played with and played against break down trying to explain how much you meant to them as a player, as a friend, and as a role model.

It hurts imagining how much your family is hurting right now, especially your wife, who has lost two of the most important people in her life: you and your daughter Gianna.

It must hurt so much for these people that have known you personally, knowing how much you loved and cared about the people around you, especially your family.

I may not know you personally, but you have impacted my life in ways that you probably wouldn’t imagine and that’s what makes me feel so heavy knowing that you’re gone this soon.

Losing you felt like losing a huge part of myself because you were one of my first role models from my childhood even to my adulthood.

As much as I would like to get on with my day and not let myself be affected by someone I never met personally, I just can’t let it happen, well at least not right now.

I owe so much of myself to you that the least that I can do now is reflect and be grateful for everything that you have done that has inspired me and countless others. So with that I just want to say:

Thank you.

Thank you for all the unforgettable on-court moments in your 20-year career.

Thank you for winning five championships for the Lakers.

Thank you for retiring in spectacular fashion by scoring 60 in your final game.

Thank you for your unwavering loyalty to the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles.

Thank you for sharing your Mamba Mentality not just to players in the league but to millions of people around the world.

Thank you for striving to be the best husband and father despite everything that has happened in your life.

Thank you for being a great example of having steadfast Catholic faith even while living such a tumultuous life.

Thank you for visiting Manila multiple times which gave me the chance to be in the same building as you on three occasions which will all go down as days I will never forget.

Finally,

Thank you for inspiring and ultimately changing the life of some 7-year-old kid from the Philippines 16 years ago by being his first role model and the cause that sparked his love and passion for the game of basketball that he still has and has made him the person that he is today.

Rest easy with your daughter, Kobe. You’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Mamba Forever. Mambacita Forever. RIP.

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